"Shameless" Episode 3 "Aunt Ginger"

1/28/2011 Posted by Admin

"Shameless" Episode 3 "Aunt Ginger"

Television Review

By our guest blogger, Nick Hanover

So, it would seem that introductory sequence I spoke about from episode two is actually the new credit sequence for "Shameless." Whoops. That's unfortunate because it doesn't really work in that fashion and is a little too artless for my taste. But that minor gripe aside, the third episode of "Shameless" is a pretty smooth operation that finds a good balance between the show's occasionally crass diversions and its more heartfelt notions of family and loyalty.

The hook of episode three is that the government appears to be on to just one of Frank's many scams, in this case his use of the titular Aunt Ginger's Social Security checks. The problem is that Aunt Ginger isn't, in fact, in a nursing home in Wisconsin but has been dead for, oh, 12 or so years now. Frank comes up with a "retardedly genius" plan of kidnapping a random elderly woman and having her pose as Aunt Ginger, except he gets the woman part of the equation wrong and nabs a former bus driver named Mr. Perry, who likes to cross-dress and sleep in dumpsters. Luckily, Veronica comes to the rescue and takes them to the nursing home she works at to "pick" an old lady to take home.

Although the plot is on its surface a sitcom cliche of mistaken identity and fish-out-of-water antics, "Shameless" only uses this as subterfuge, making a larger point about how we "respect" our elders in America and what loneliness really is. There are some obvious but still heartbreaking moments in the nursing home but the real emotional climax comes when Debbie doesn't want to let their Aunt Ginger surrogate go because she's become too attached. The moment works because of the caliber of the acting and because it makes it clear without words how affected Debbie really is by the lack of a "normal" family. The surrogate Ginger may have been suffering from extreme Alzheimer's but she honestly seemed to care for Debbie and the rest of the Gallagher clan, and you could feel a real chemistry between Debbie and fake Ginger, especially while Debbie was catching up on stories of fake Ginger's youth.

There's a large point about family and loyalty that's made in the B story as well, which finds Ian pursued by the brothers of a girl he accidentally scorned by not giving in to her advances. When Lip gets beaten up by the brothers for Ian, it's because he knows he can't tell the truth about Ian's status because it could quite possibly get him killed, which is why it takes Ian so long to fess up to the girl who nonetheless doubts him until he asks why he'd make up such a thing in "this neighborhood." Ian and Lip share a tight bond because of Ian's secret and the two know this but even so, you can tell both are relieved that Ian has someone he can vent to now that isn't his boss/lover or Lip.

The only parts of the episode that didn't really connect were those that centered on Joan Cusack's Sheila and her continued attempts to break free from her agoraphobia. Maybe it's because Cusack, either because of an acting decision or direction, plays Sheila as a drugged out basket case, which works to make Sheila's phobia a punchline instead of a real entity. When Sheila goes to leave the house to go to the supermarket in what seems to be her annual attempt, it doesn't carry any real weight even though it's clearly meant to. Cusack either needs to dial down her performance or the writers need to make up their mind about whether Sheila, with her combination of domination kinks and agoraphobia, is meant to be a joke or if we're supposed to take her seriously. Unlike the Gallaghers, she's far too extreme to be a balance of both.

Even with that bit of fumbling, "Shameless" is moving along nicely and the chemistry between the actors is getting stronger and clearer in each episode. If they can keep the dildos and puzzling depictions of sex to a minimum and bring in more characterization along the lines of fake Ginger, we'll be that much closer to having must-see tv on our hands.

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